Closers seem to have been the focal point of many points recently. Mariano Rivera has just notched up his 600th save and should pass Trevor Hoffman’s all time saves record in the next week or so. Jose Valverde hasn’t blown a save all year as the Tigers storm towards the post season. Craig Kimbrel is having one of the great relief seasons and striking out just about every batter that digs in. John Axford has been just about untouchable all year. Jonathan Papelbon seems to have rediscovered the prime form of a couple of years ago.

Anecdotally, this seems to have been a very solid year for relievers across the league with perhaps less closers losing their jobs than usual. As good as the pitchers listed above may have been, very few relief performances can compete with the greatest closing season of all time: Gagne ’03.

As you may have guessed from the (slightly laboured) headline, I don’t profess to have any new insight into Gagne’s efforts that year, but it’s worth looking back on some of his preposterous achievements in light of some of the merely excellent seasons closers have produced since.

Gagne’s 53 saves in 53 chances as part of his record breaking 84 consecutive save successes only tell a fraction of the story. In 82.1 innings he struck out 137 batters while walking just 20. For some reasons he was also asked to walk two batters intentionally which might actually be the most eyebrow raising of his stats that year.

Gagne in his prime was deadly enough against any hitter, but he was especially ruthless against righties, holding them to a .132/.178/.181 slash line, striking out a whopping 54.3% of them and breaking Fangraphs FIP metric by producing a -0.04 mark.

Just for comparisons sake, Sidney Ponson is a career .138/.176/.185 hitter.

I really don’t think there has been a better season by a closer. I’d be careful not to say there’s been no better relief season, not because I don’t think there has (I don’t really) but because once you start going back too far the role of a reliever changes too much to make any comparison worthwhile. All I will say, is that next time you’re killing time on the internet looking at baseball ‘stuff’, just call up Eric Gagne’s numbers on your baseball stats site of choice and try and pick your favorite jaw dropper.

3 Responses to “Goggling At Gagne”

  1. Wasn’t he on roids?

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